A successful person is one who loves his life that he is living.
I’m reading The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff for the umpteenth time. My kids or sister gave it to me years ago; so long ago that I don’t remember who gave it to me.
I store it in one of my desk drawers and I pull it out every year to re-read it. The author’s simple explanations of the principles of Taoism by way of A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh never fail to inspire me. Hoff (and Pooh) remind me that happiness lies in how we live our lives and not in our successes.
“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.
A basic Taoist principle is that we appreciate life as it is – the sweet with the bitter; that we savour the sweet and that we learn from the bitter. Pooh Bear has that figured out, except he doesn’t know that he has it figured out. After all, he is just a simple bear who lives his life in the Now. He doesn’t waste time thinking about why is he happy? He is just happy.
He often tells his friends who include Christopher Robin, Roo, Piglet, Owl, Eeyore and Rabbit that he loves honey, but he will often admit that he isn’t sure if he loves the actual taste of honey more than the anticipation of the taste of honey. Both are so, so sweet!
When we enjoy our everyday moments fully, we, too, realize that we can enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Like Pooh, the anticipation of arriving at the destination is just as sweet to us as is the final quest.
And The Tao of Pooh reminds me that nothing and doing are equally important. Because in Taoism, doing nothing signifies something.
For me, I can’t arrive at inner peace if I am too busy (or too distracted) doing something…I can only arrive at inner stillness if I do nothing. (Oh, oh. I am sounding like a simple bear now.) Of course, the goal is to arrive at our inner stillness even when we are busy doing something. When we can mentally slow down and become aware of our busyness, that’s when we can do nothing while doing something.
The Taoist principles are based on Oneness, balance, cyclical growth (endless cycles) and harmony. Those are principles that I find are universally accepted when on a spiritual journey (no matter what our religions are).
Nature is an important part of Taoism because it represents the flow and harmony of the earth or the rhythms of life – each of the elements: wind, water, earth, fire and air are interconnected and dependent. For example, the element of water flows through, well, everything: it doesn’t resist and yet it is so powerful.
Harmony is born when opposing elements come together: birth and death; young and old; male and female; hot and cold; yin and yang.
Harmony or balance is the path to happiness or contentment or peace. That resonates with me. And it is a daily reminder that attention or awareness on all things will bring me to peace. And it is a reminder that awareness allows me to stay in the moment or the Now. One of the true gifts of awareness in all things is that we become open to the possibility that all is beautiful. Under the microscope, the simple dew drop is stunningly magnificent, complex and awesome. In awareness, we recognize that all is nothing; nothing is all.
To arrive at awareness, we have to let go of our resistance to perceived reality. In true awareness (in paying attention) we take note of our emotions, our feelings, our bodies’ signs of stress or relaxation. Because when we are in resistance to what is going around us (reality), we tighten and constrict. We are not in harmony; nor are we in balance.
To let go of the struggle or to let go of unhappiness, we have to become observers (according to E. Tolle) and we do this by meditation, contemplation and awareness. Tolle reminds us in his spiritual teachings that our inner self is always at peace and in stillness – it is our outer self that is a mess. (Okay, he doesn’t actually say mess.)
When we are in the middle of chaos, tumult or drama, we need to become still and quiet our minds; we need to back off. We need to become aware of what is truly going on within our emotions, feelings, and bodies. And then, we need to find courage to remind ourselves that we do not have to add to all of this negative energy. In just those few moments of awareness, we can change our own energy – to one of acceptance and balance. In a small way, we can begin to flow (like the element of water) with the reality of the situation; instead of fighting and struggling with it.
On any spiritual journey we learn that balance and harmony within our bodies and minds will lead to balance and harmony in our lives, and most importantly, that balance and harmony will lead us to our beautiful, spiritual, inner qualities of love, compassion, unconditional kindness and acceptance.
In short, balance and harmony lead to Oneness.
Hoff is genius, I think. He gently reminds us over and over that we are enough…just as we are. No one realizes this more than Pooh Bear. Pooh just does what he does and all the while, happy while doing it. And if a simple bear can know this, surely, we can, too?